Major Nigerian Evangelical leader Pastor Chris Oyakhilome emphasized the importance of showing solidarity with the State of Israel during a visit to the country as it celebrates 70 years of independence.
Oyakhilome, the founder of the Christ Embassy Church, an Evangelical community with approximately 13 million followers around the world, toured a variety of religious and historical sites in Israel during his nine-day “Holy Land Tour.”
"We're here to see the celebration of this nation which we regard as a biblical miracle. The number 70 is significant in the Bible," Oyakhilome told The Jerusalem Post during a visit to Tel Aviv's Palmach Museum, highlighting that the visit has added importance due to protests surrounding the US embassy move to Jerusalem.
"It is a matter of solidarity. With the significant move of the embassy to Jerusalem, you expect maybe some protests and some violence," said Oyakhilome. "But if we, who actually believe in the State of Israel, stay back, who should come here?"
Oyakhilome is also behind several international aid organizations including Innercity Mission and Future Africa Foundation, several "LoveWorld" Evangelical television channels and the "Healing School," a divine healing ministry run by the Nigerian pastor.
"Even though Israel as a nation has always stated that Jerusalem is their capital, the world failed to recognize that," said Oyakhilome. "The announcement that the US embassy will move to Jerusalem really meant something huge for the world, because the US is not just any other nation - it is the leader of the free world."
"For us, it does mean the recognition of Jerusalem as the Bible said always," he told the Post. "And that's something for us to celebrate."
Oyakhilome's tour included visits to key sites in Jerusalem, Hebron and the Galilee, in addition to Bethany and Lazarus's Tomb and the Inn of the Good Samaritan. He also attended a reception hosted by Israel’s Foreign Ministry celebrating the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
"You have to understand a lot of things about the land and its people," said Oyakhilome, explaining the in-depth nature of the tour. "You have to study them, their environment and how they live, and what they think. How did they come here? And relate all of that to the Bible."
Oyakhilome highlighted the need for those returning from Israel to encourage others to make similar visits.
"All over the world, Jerusalem and Israel are painted as being in a state of war. So no one really wants to come here from the outside," Oyakhilome said, blaming international media for broadcasting misleading information regarding the conflict.
"It is up to the rest of us who have been here to go to the rest of the world and tell them what Israel is like and increase the pilgrimage to these places," he added.
Highlighting the great strides made by Israel since its independence 70 years ago, Oyakhilome hoped to send a message of friendship to Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.
"Israel is going in the right direction, in almost every field. We encourage the Jewish people to be strong and actually know they have friends around the world who are more powerful than their enemies," said Oyakhilome. "Congratulations to Israel on its 70th anniversary."